Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti
Sebastian Pietro Innocenzo Adhemar Ziani de Ferranti (April 9, 1864 - January 13, 1930) was an electrical engineer and inventor.
Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti was born in Liverpool, England. His Italian father, Cesar, was a photographer and his mother Juliana (née Scott) was a concert pianist.
He married Gertrude Ruth Ince on April 24, 1888 and they had seven children together. Ferranti died on January 13, 1930 in Zurich, Switzerland. He was buried in the same grave as his parents and his daughter Yolanda at Hampstead cemetery, London.
Ferranti showed a remarkable talent for electrical engineering from his childhood. His first invention, at the age of 13, was an arc light for street lighting. Reportedly, around the age of 16, he built an electrical generator (that had a "Zig-zag armature") with the help of Lord Kelvin and later patented the device (called the "Ferranti Dynamo"). He naturally went into this business, in 1882, when he set up shop in London designing various electrical devices.
In the late 1880s there was a debate within the industry about the transmission of electrical power, known as the War of the Currents. Thomas Edison supported a direct current (DC) based system, largely due to his holding many key patents and having set up some power plants supplying DC power. His rival, Nikola Tesla, supported an alternating current (AC) system that was being backed by Westinghouse.
Ferranti bet on AC early on, and was one of the few experts in this system in the UK. In 1887 the London Electric Supply Corporation (LESCo) hired Ferranti for the design of their power station at Deptford. He designed the building, the generating plant and the distribution system. On its completion in 1891 it was the first truly modern power station, supplying high-voltage AC power that was then "stepped down" for consumer use on each street. This basic system remains in use today around the world. One of the remaining supports of the generating hall of Deptford Power Station forms the frame of the sign at the Manchester Museum of science and Industry in Manchester UK, home of the Ferranti Archives.
Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti was President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1910 and 1911, and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1927.